Your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents probably fought and struggled to obtain basic rights on the job. This was a reaction to the intolerable working conditions they suffered, including long hours, low pay, and few considerations for their health and safety. Unfortunately, many employees today do not know about those horrible working conditions, and they might not even realize what their rights are.
Sadly, if you are unaware of your rights as a worker, you are more vulnerable to having those rights violated. While it may be impossible and unreasonable for you to know and understand the nuances of the hundreds of California and federal laws that exist for your protection on the job, knowing the basics might allow you to recognize when an employer is trying to take advantage of you and give you a foundation on which to stand up for your rights.
A fair and safe workplace
Employment laws evolve as the government and citizens see the need. Often, these laws come about following an outcry or a tragedy that brings unfair or unsafe conditions to the public’s attention. The goal of these laws is to improve the workplace so that your employer treats you fairly, pays you for the work you do and ensures you have a work environment that is as safe and peaceful as possible. Some laws that uphold these goals include:
- The Fair Labor Standards Act, which sets a minimum wage for hourly workers and rules for overtime pay for those who work more than 40 hours a week.
- FLSA also sets a minimum age for workers, especially for those jobs with high risk of injury.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Act sets safety regulations for various industries and is under federal and state government agencies.
- States also work with federal agencies for providing unemployment insurance if you should experience a job loss beyond your control.
- The Affordable Care Act requires your employer to offer basic health insurance if he or she has at least 50 full-time workers on staff.
- The Family and Medical Leave Act allows you to take time off for the birth of a child, serious illness or other family matters without fear of losing your job.
You also have the benefit of protection from discrimination through the Civil Rights Act. Through the years, new legislation has added more protected classes against which it is illegal for employers to discriminate. These include race, color, sex, religion, sexual orientation and others. If you believe your employer is violating your rights under these and other laws, you would be wise to learn as much as you can about your protections and your options for correcting the situation.